Some places I wander into in nature captivate my soul in special ways, not just for their beauty and grandeur, but because they whisper into my very being and offer me something that we all need a heavy dose of from time to time, humility. Sequoia National Park was that special place that I recently visited. Tucked high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, it is a sacred, enchanted place that can inflame the imagination in the most stoic of souls. It is a place of wonder and magic that can hardly be put into words, only quietly and humbly felt in the presence of these wondrous ancient giants, the Sequoia trees.
The Giant Sequoias are the most massive trees on our planet. They are almost incomprehensible to behold, staring up from the base of these mammoths of wood. They grow up to 40 feet in diameter, stretch up to nearly 300 feet high, and can easily weigh over two million pounds. Their age is just as impressive as their size, as many in this high forest are over 3,000 years old.
Visiting in early December, the area had recently undergone a barrage of snowfall. The thick snow, especially contrasted against the red hue of the bark, made these massive trees only feel more alive and spirited. Immersing yourself in their presence is to dance with the ancient ones. They have been here far before us and will continue long after we are gone. It is a spiritual experience that calls one to contemplate the meager existence of our own lives and to reflect on the nature of time and the circle of life. Our time is so brief here, it is but a whisper. I remember standing under one particular tree that was documented to be over 3,000 years old. I thought about what all it had seen, all of the changing seasons and the drama of fire, wind, and earthquake.
I thought about the tree in comparison to one of the most celebrated and powerful empires to have ever existed, the Roman Empire. All of the power, dominance, influence, and hubris of a great empire rose and fell in a short span of this tree’s life. Whole civilizations came and went under the quiet watch of this silent giant. All the ideals, hopes, and dreams of a people vanished into the wind, and yet this tree stood steadfast and resilient through it all. I think about that still, how a tree can make entire societies seem small and temporary, and us as even smaller units therein.
To me, this is one of the most important experiences we can have in nature in my opinion. It is to give us a great heaping dose of humility. It is to see, hear, smell, and taste humility. It is to force us to understand how little we really matter and how small and fragile we truly are in the grand scheme of it all. It is to break us from our narrow shells of stress, worries, and self-importance and to whimsically show us how inconsequential our problems are on a universal scale. It is to turn our perspectives upward and outward, and to find peace in the giant flowing river of space and time. It is to gently sit us in our place, not as the center of nature or dominant over nature, but as integral parts of the whole, however small, interwoven with the flow of our world. It is to gently whisper not for us to worry about anything, ever, for all will fall into place in time, and our lives are only passing phases in a much larger and significant painting.
One of the park rangers had a talk at the base of one of the big trees where he pulled out an acorn. It was a Sequoia acorn. It was only about two inches by one inch and it contained a little over 200 seeds. It blew me away staring at this tiny acorn. I guess I was expecting something far more massive given the scale of these trees, but it was such a tiny thing. The guide pulled out one of the seeds and I had to squint to see it from my position. Such a tiny thing, I kept thinking. It was just a blip of matter, easily overlooked, and yet what potential!
I picked an acorn up after the talk on one the trails and just stood there rolling it around in my hand. It was so light. The little embedded seeds could barely be seen within the cone in the right light. I thought that this acorn, which easily fits in the palms of my hand, has the potential to become a giant forest in time, which could not only outlive me, but entire civilizations of people. It made me think about the human heart and the human will. In so many ways we are like the acorn. Under the right conditions, we can see our potential maximized in ways far beyond our wildest conceptions. What potential we all hold. What worlds we can create out of seemingly nothing. If this little acorn could potentially produce a giant forest then imagine the potential of the human spirit! We are boundless and eternal! It’s really just a matter of waking up and realizing it, and taking careful steps to nurture our dreams. Our spirit is akin to this tiny acorn, only needing to be cared for and nurtured in order to flourish and grow.
Sequoia goes in the books as one of my favorite places. It hits on every level for me, for both its humble lessons and for its magnitude and wonder. It makes me think back to my childhood, to reading and watching stories about fantasy and adventure. It’s a world that you can get lost in, and its possibilities are only limited by the boundaries of your imagination. It both filled and captivated my soul with a warmness and a peace I can only begin to describe. It almost makes me want to fall to my knees and cry, just at the fact that there are magnificent places like this still alive and vibrant for us to enjoy. It’s so important to preserve these sacred realms. They echo into the past far beyond us to inflame a passion that can surely change the course of our futures. ❤